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EU threatens reprisals over mackerel

SCOTTISH fishermen have welcomed a European Union commitment to take action against Iceland and Faroe in the international dispute over mackerel.

Both Iceland and Faroe have walked out of talks with the EU and Norway to carve out a share of the north east Atlantic mackerel stock, worth a total of around £500 million.

Now EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki has pledged to find a way to ban EU imports of Icelandic and Faroese mackerel.

The Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association has welcomed the move, but has said the time has come for action rather than words.

Chief executive Ian Gatt said: “We welcome the statement made by the commissioner, but it is vitally important to convert these words into action as we have had such statements of intent for several months now.

“Any punitive action should not be taken lightly, but the irresponsible behaviour of Iceland and the Faroes is threatening a valuable stock of fish that has been carefully looked after and sustainably harvested by our fishing fleet.”

On Monday during the first day of the annual EU Fisheries Council negotiations over quotas, Ms Damanaki said she was consulting with colleagues on how restrictions on mackerel landings in EU ports could be applied.

She said she would push for new regulations that could result in a ban on fish imports from any state acting outwith international fishery agreements.

However the effectiveness of such a ban is open to question with Faroe already having reached an agreement on selling their mackerel quota to Russia.

Scottish fisheries secretary Richard Lochhead, who is in Brussels for the fisheries council talks, said: “Last year total landings of north Atlantic mackerel were worth in excess of £500 million – and in Scotland mackerel directly supports around 2,500 jobs.

“The valuable mackerel stock has been sustainably managed for the past 10 years by Scottish fishermen, as well as others across the EU and Norway. Firm action is needed or the irresponsible practices of Iceland and the Faroes may lead to the demise of the fishery.”

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